Bee cowShit

The Sacramento Bee Just Can’t Stop Talkin’ cowShit

A recent Bee article claiming some amateur scientist discovered germs in Sierra streams sparked a lot of steam up here in the Sierra hills. The article, which posed as a science piece, was pure propaganda designed to convince flatlanders that dangerous mad cows were pooping in their tap water. We’ve known there were critters in the water for a long, long time. Bears, it turns out, do shit in the woods.

So do hikers, amateur scientists, and talking head editors. The first article (the link is found on this page) was pretty obvious. A bunch of upper middle class, mid level professionals are taking it on themselves to rid the Sierra of riff raff like cows and cowboys.

There was a lot missing from the first article: logic, science, reality, but it was a scholarly work compared to the editainment that followed, read it here, but wash your hands when you’re done.

We also reprinted a logical evaluation of the letter sent in by an alert reader, which is HERE.


The upshot of both of these puff pieces is that cows shouldn’t crap in the out of doors. The message is very, very clear: these people are from the Delta and Bay areas, and they want our water, it’s theirs, and they want it clean. That’s the obvious message; the less obvious message is that they don’t want cow people in the mountains, either.

Not our home, water for the Delta
Indeed, we, the people who live in the mountains and care for both the forests and our cattle, are completely missing from these pieces. The cows take themselves to the hills, and bring themselves back, we guess, because we are never mentioned in either of these pseudo articles.

We are unschooled, unsophisticated and unimportant, the in-bred booger eatin’ cousins of the hills. There are too few of us to matter, too few of us to mention.

What is mentioned is the Forest Service. It isn’t often I have the urge to come to the defense of the Forest Service, but the FS is very aware of stock and grazing and use of the woods by local people, and has been moving for years to get both stock and mountain dwellers our of the forest. They’ve burned cabins, restricted grazing and generally made a nuisance of themselves. It’s hard to believe the Bee wants the feds to step up their pressure on rural people.

Not our home, these clouds belong to flatlanders
The author of the Bee editorial says of Forest Service land manager Anne Yost, "Apparently Yost hasn't spent enough time in the public forests she helps manage. Anyone who has hiked or backpacked extensively in the Sierra has seen cows in streams and cow poop nearby. Cows harbor not only E. coli but also Giardia, a parasite that can cause serious illness and can't always be filtered out of raw water."

Anyone who has lived in the mountains knows cows eat grass and scrub, and they poop when they eat, it’s a feature of all grass eating critters.

Oddly, in my experience in the wilds, it’s horses that foul water. I’ve seen many a Nevada spring claimed by horses; they crap there every time they come, to discourage other critters from using it. In the old days a rancher could pop a cap on feral horses, but now they’re protected thanks to the same soy-latte drinking, smog-sucking flatlanders that want our cattle out of the hills. Funny, huh?

Not our home, a playground for city folk.
Anyway, said smog suckers want two things, which the article and the editorial make clear. First, they don’t want stinky cows spoiling their John Muir moment in the woods. After all, they’ve spent a thousand bucks on high tech stuff so they could hike a few hours into the woods and be back to the first moment of creation, where everything is pure. Second, they want every drop of our water.

I’ve spent my days in the saddle bringing cattle through freezing spring storms into the high country. I’ve spent long hot days where the sweat trickling down my neck mixed with the dust and dried cowshit of the corral. I’ve hugged a thousand calves in the course of snipping and branding. I have been intimate with cows, though not in the way flatlanders probably assume (they’re thinking sheep). I can say with complete honesty that I could work with cattle all day and feel cleaner than a trip to the city where there is simply no way to get the filth off your body and out of your head. If you are worried about germs and the degradation of the Sierra, do the right thing and evacuate the cities of California. Go to Florida, or New York. You are the problem, not our cattle.

Their water; they use it to flush their poop and wash the E. Coli from their bodies.
Photo J. Smith, used without asking
That’s the unintended consequence of propaganda pieces like those in the Bee: they cause me and lot of other hillbillies to look askance at urban users of the Sierra. I admit, the problem of litter isn’t as bad as it used to be, but there is still the problem of urbanites who don’t understand the concept of fences and private property. They tend to see everything with a tree or blade of grass as part of their return to nature. Not only is Forest Service land theirs to use for the weekend, all land is. They park where they shouldn’t, they clog our roads and worst of all, they bring everything with them from Costco and leave little enough of their professional income in our quaint little towns.

It makes me feel threatened, causing me to become unfriendly, country style. Leave me out of the Sierra? Makes me want to get my idiot banjo playing cousin and go lookin’ for flatlanders in the woods. Der der der der der der der der der (sorry, it’s hard to do "Dueling Banjos" on the keyboard).

Duelling Banjos, from Deliverance. Der der der der and so on.

The Bee editorial leaves off like this:

"The Sierra is California's major source of water, and its volume and purity are of far more value than the few thousand cattle and sheep that graze on Sierra national forest lands each year.

That doesn't mean ending such grazing, but moving livestock to lower-elevation areas and managing their movements to protect the Sierra's prime asset: the water we drink."

Not our home, the Bay Area's prime asset.

I suggest keeping the flatlanders to lower-elevation areas where they belong, and managing their movements to protect the Sierra’s prime asset: her people.

Finally, they want our water, folks, I say we give it to them. Go piddle in the river.  Der der der der der der der der der.

Not our home, their water, their playground.
Not our home, the Central Valley's trees.

Not our mountains catch and clean not our water for not us.

Not our home, the sponge and filter and forest primeval for someone somewhere else.



Afterthought: In the "science" article the author, Tom Knudson, had the temerity to summon John Muir. Muir, I’ll remind the class, did want grazing animals out of the forest, but he was also dead set against harnessing the waters of the Sierra to serve the urban populations, and stood strongly against Hetch Hetchty Dam. Further, it was Muir who advocated having the Feds oversee public lands.

The article quoted Gandhi, too, but karma will get him for that. 

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